I think it's hilarious that people object to Joel Grey playing a Korean but then suggest a Japanese man to play a Korean instead. Like from this distance, it's the same thing. That seems just as offensive to me, and Joel Grey in makeup looks a lot more Korean than Mako does, actually.
Personally I'd rather they just hired an actual Korean dude, since him *being* Korean was actually part of the story, they mentioned it several times.
I think a white guy playing a Korean is not *necessarily* racist... if they auditioned Koreans first and none of the ones who showed up could act well enough, but Joel Grey could, I can see him getting the part.
If they didn't bother with even trying to find actual Korean actors because "there aren't any good Asian actors anyway" then I have a problem with that, it's a self-perpetuating process.
Clearly the best person to get for the role would be an actual 70-year-old Korean martial arts master of Sinanju. But since the martial art is fictional, an older actor might not be able to do all the stunts, etc, some things get changed because it's, you know, ACTING. Why can a non-martial artist act like he knows to fight? Why can a 50-year-old pretend to be 70? And so a white guy can pretend to be Korean, IF there's a legitimate reason to do so, and not just because "we like white people better than Koreans" or "Koreans can't act" and so on.
I don't know what the motives were of the makers of the film. I just know that it isn't *necessarily* racist to cast a white guy as a Korean, but that there is a strong assumption of racism being a motive unless we see some evidence it wasn't.
Blackface is usually always racist, but that's because there is a huge amount of racist history behind it.
And "yellowface" as well, to a lesser extent, but think of Breakfast at Tiffany's... that was awful. Chiun at least is a super awesome character we are meant to admire. (Of course, all the more reason to have him be as authentic as possible...)
What about sighted guys playing blind people, and gay guys playing straight?
Are you telling me that you can tell if I put a Korean, a Chinese, and a Japanese man in a room, that you could tell them apart?? You are dreaming. There are Japanese people who have yellow skin, and Chinese and Koreans that are white an pasty. It depends on where they live in their countries, lol.
And saying there are not that many Asian Actors, are you kidding me? Now back in 1984 IDK, there wasn't as many indie movemakers like there is now.